Logistics of Kama agglomeration needs reconstruction

The capacity of the transport frame of Zakamye is expected to grow three times to meet the demands of the time

Logistics of Kama agglomeration needs reconstruction
Photo: Photo courtesy of Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC

The success of economic development of any territory is determined, among other things, by the effectiveness of its logistics component. Road, rail, water, and air transport provide support for existing contacts and help to find new ones, expand the geography of the purchases and sales of finished products. Back in 2012, the president of Tatarstan stressed that meeting the needs of the growing Kama industrial cluster requires the development of transport infrastructure. Later it was clarified: the capacity of the transport frame of Zakamye should grow three times to meet the requirements of the time. About how the logistics of the Kama agglomeration was formed and changed and what is planned to be done to strengthen it in the foreseeable future — read in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

The structure of the Kama agglomeration

The modern Kama agglomeration is defined by the boundaries of the Kama innovative territorial production cluster Innokam. It has a polycentric structure formed by five core cities: Naberezhnye Chelny, Nizhnekamsk, Zainsk, Mendeleevsk, Yelabuga, and the urban-type settlement of Kamsky Polyany. It includes Yelabuga, Mendeleyevsk, Tukayevsky, Zainsk, and Nizhnekamsk municipal districts. The total population is about a million people.

The polycentric structure of Innokam is formed by five cities-cores: Naberezhnye Chelny, Nizhnekamsk, Zainsk, Mendeleyevsk and Yelabuga. Photo: rt.rbc.ru

As noted in the 'Concept of creating the geographically separate innovation and production centre Innokam, approved by a decree of the government of the Russian Federation in June 2016, the agglomeration is distinguished by a developed industrial complex, represented by oil and gas processing, petrochemistry and chemistry, power engineering, automotive industry and developed agro-industrial complex.

It is in the Kama agglomeration that more than a quarter of the republic's population lives, and enterprises located there produce products that make up 26% of the republic's GRP, 43% of industrial and 17% of agricultural products. As of 2016, the regions included in Innokam account for more than 40% of investments in the Republic of Tatarstan, TAIF Group's enterprises produce 47% of Russian polymers and 69% of all synthetic rubbers in the country, and every second Russian truck rolls off KAMAZ conveyors. Besides, Nizhnekamsk produces 55% of all truck tyres in the country.

One of the key disadvantages of the rapidly developing territory in the same 'Concept...' is the lack of development of transport infrastructure.

The transport frame of Zakamye — the legacy of the Soviet Union

But the truly rapid development of the region began in the second half of the last century, when large-scale construction projects began on the banks of the Kama River, turning the quiet mainly agricultural region into huge industrial centres. KAMAZ automobile plant was built in Naberezhnye Chelny. Where the trees of the Biklyansky forestry farm used to rustle, the new city of Nizhnekamsk appeared on the bank of the Kama River, and the rectification columns of Europe's largest complex for processing associated petroleum gas, and then oil into new types of plastic masses, synthetic rubber and other hydrocarbon raw materials for subsequent processing rose. The rapid growth of the industrial complex was accompanied by an equally active development of the logistics system.

The сonstruction of highway No. 1 from the exit for Naberezhnye Chelny to Nizhnekamsk. Summer, 1976. Photo: ЧелныВКурсе

The witnesses and participants of the construction of the Nizhnekamsk chemical plant and the city of Nizhnekamsk recall that at the very beginning there was nothing: only a forest, open field and the enthusiasm of the first builders. There was no housing — only trailers and temporary shelters, there was no bread — it had to be transported from Naberezhnye Chelny, there was not enough drinking water — it was delivered by tanks from the riverside village of Krasny Klyuch.

“We wanted to build a giant oil industry complex for processing associated petroleum gases," Fikryat Tabeyev, the first secretary of the republican committee of the Tatar ASSR, said in an interview. “And such a scale involves the delivery of thousands of specialists, huge volumes of construction materials and equipment, and in the future it is necessary to ensure the regular supply of raw materials and dispatch of finished products. The construction of communication routes, roads, railways, and quay walls for river transport began simultaneously with the clearing of the territory for the future construction site. First, roads were laid for wheeled transport — dirt one, then causeway. A little later, the work began on equipping tracks for trains. Quay walls were built for river transport.

The modern transport system of the entire Zakamye region is mostly a legacy of Soviet times. Maintained in working order, but, unfortunately, almost neglected for decades, it lags behind the requirements of the significantly developed powerful oil refining and petrochemical complex of Nizhnekamsk, the automobile cluster of Naberezhnye Chelny, the chemical complex of Mendeleyevsk, dozens of residents of Alabuga SEZ, Zainsk production workers and the agricultural complex of the entire region. It not only does not meet the requirements of the time, but also hinders the development of the republic's industry.

By water, land, and air

It would seem that today all types of transport are represented in Zakamye: aviation, motor transport and railway lines, one of the main waterways of Russia — the Kama River. It is along the river that the natural axis of the Kama agglomeration passes.

The main road artery of Zakamye is the federal highway M-7. Photo: mert.tatarstan.ru

Transport corridors with bridge crossings give stability to the frame. But there is a problem — there are clearly not enough bridge crossings to meet the logistics needs of the actively developing industrial complex. This has been repeatedly stated since the 1990s.

There are also not enough capacities for existing roads. The main road artery of Zakamye is the federal highway M7, stretching from Kazan, passing between Alabug SEZ and Yelabuga, entering Nizhnekamsk through the hydroelectric dam (the only bridge crossing that connects the two banks of the Kama River within the agglomeration), flowing around Naberezhnye Chelny and merging with road No. 1 in the direction of Ufa. It is along this road and a number of regional and municipal roads that run in the directions Naberezhnye Chelny-Zainsk-Almetyevsk, Naberezhnye Chelny-Nizhnekamsk and Yelabuga-Mendeleyevsk-Izhevsk that cargo is delivered and dispatched. According to experts, the standard capacity of each of the branches of the Zakamye road transport system is exceeded at least 1,3 times, and more often twofold or more.

The Nizhnekamsk hydroelectric dam is currently the only bridge crossing connecting the two banks of the Kama River within the Zakamye region. Photo: drive2.ru

Located on the territory of the Kama agglomeration, the railway network belonging to the Kuibyshev Railways operates for both passenger and freight traffic. The line passes through Nizhnekamsk, Naberezhnye Chelny, Nizhnekamsk hydroelectric power station and goes to Mendeleyevsk, providing communication in the Volga Region Economic Zone, as well as directions to Moscow, Kazan, Ulyanovsk, Izhevsk, Bugulma, Adler, Perm, Volgograd, Saratov, Krasnodar. The possibilities of increasing the car traffic are almost exhausted today. The track capacity does not allow increasing the volume of dispatched cargo.

Air transportation is carried out from Begishevo international airport, which is located in the Tukayevsky district, just 19 km from Nizhnekamsk. It also required a major update.

And finally, water transport. Kama gives the opportunity to provide communication with the Azov, Black, Caspian, Baltic and White Seas. It was by water that large-sized equipment was delivered to Nizhnekamsk, first for the TAIF-NK's HRCC, and in 2020 — for the EP-600 ethylene complex under construction. The road built by TAIF Group, informally called “The last mile”, leads from the quay wall and to the Nizhnekamsk industrial site. The columns weighing hundreds of tonnes each were transported along it from the water's edge to the site. But this branch of the transport system also needs to be seriously modernised and expanded.

Transport logistics in Zakamye does not meet the time requirements

Maintenance of working capacity, and even more so the construction of new roads is an expensive pleasure. In Soviet times, funds for updating the transport system were allocated by the state. In the 1990s and early 2000s, after the collapse of the USSR and during the formation of the new economy of modern Russia, the development of logistics links at the regional level, for a while fell out of the attention of the federal authorities. And at the local level, it was not always possible to provide sufficient funding not only for the construction of new roads, but also for the repair of existing routes. The price tag is many billions of rubles.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, funds were not enough not only for construction, but even for maintaining the existing logistics system. Photo: ntr-24.ru

Over time, it became clear that the transport logistics of Zakamye is hopelessly behind the requirements of the time and the needs of the recovering and then developing industry. Every year the roads were “decorated” with deeper cracks and holes, and the transportation of goods, especially so delicate as raw materials for petrochemical production, turned into a deadly attraction. The districts were looking for ways to solve the problem on their own. At that time, there was no talk of joining forces to solve the problem that was essentially common for municipalities and businesses. But this thought gradually matured. As well as the understanding that the “patchwork” approach would not help to remove the urgency of the issue — they needed a comprehensive solution.

In 2009, a project for the development of transport and communication infrastructure in Nizhnekamsk was adopted. At the instruction of the Main Investment and Construction Directorate of Tatarstan and the Construction and Major Repair Agency-NK PLC, the head territorial design and survey, scientific-production company Tatinvestgrazhdanproekt took on the study, identification of problem areas with respect to economic and social processes and subsequent elaboration of the decision. Noting the favourable geographical location of Nizhnekamsk and the production facilities in the adjacent territories, the project highlighted a whole range of problems in literally all areas of transport logistics.

For example, railway communication (the second most important in providing cargo transportation and, in particular, at the key (for large industrial enterprises of Nizhnekamsk Nizhnekamskneftekhim, TAIF-NK and Tatneft) line Agryz-Krugloye Polye-Akbash) was difficult due to insufficient track development and the poor technical equipment of the main stations. The running lines on the approaches to the Krugloye Pole station, which has only two sorting and five receiving and departure tracks, are overloaded, and the passage of increasing car traffic is complicated by long single-track running lines. The project involves major repairs with the reconstruction and extension of the receiving and departure tracks, the construction of additional facilities at the stations Krugloye Polye and Biklyan. The necessity of laying new railway lines in the direction of Chistopol-Nizhnekamsk and connecting Kamskiye Polyany, Zainsk and Nizhnekamsk branches in 32 km was highlighted. The project also includes the construction of multi-level junctions at the intersection of roads and railways.

Railway communication in Zakamye is difficult due to lack of track development. Photo: gudok.ru

One of the main problems of road traffic organisation, announced in 2009, was that a significant part of transit freight traffic passed through Nizhnekamsk itself, which harmed the city's environment, created difficulties for motorists, reduced the speed of freight trains and led to the destruction of the road surface. The developers of the document saw a solution to the problem in the construction of new roads bypassing the city.

For the development of water transport, which during the navigation period allows shipping cargo twice cheaper than by rail, and 20 times cheaper than by road, the project proposed to reconstruct the berths and the building of the river port.

The document also declared the need to reconstruct the terminal building and the runway of Begishevo international airport.

Repairs are still a priority

The issue of putting in order the transport frame of Zakamye was becoming more acute year by year. Understanding the importance of the industrial development potential of the Kama agglomeration brought the dialogue to the federal level. Thus, in 2012, a meeting on the prospects for the development of the railway infrastructure of the Kama innovative territorial-industrial cluster was held in Nizhnekamsk under the chairmanship of Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov and with the participation of the Russian Railways management. A year later, the issue of implementing a project to increase the capacity of the railway infrastructure of the Kama cluster was raised again. Besides, the meeting held at the site of Nizhnekamskneftekhim discussed possible schemes for interaction between project participants — the republic, municipalities and enterprises of the cluster's districts.

In 2012 and 2013, with the participation of Rustam Minnikhanov and the management of Russian Railways, the issue of developing the railway infrastructure of Zakamye was discussed. Photo: tatarstan.ru

Big businesses also contribute to the solution of the transport problem. In 2007, TAIF-NK JSC with the approval of the shareholders and management TAIF JSC invested 420 million rubles in launching the production of road bitumen. The design capacity of the enterprise of 120,000 tons/year was to completely cover the needs of the republic in high-quality material for road construction. At the end of 2015, the plant for the production of polymer-bitumen binders with a design capacity of 140,000 tons/year was put into operation.

In 2013, a depot for the repair of freight cars was put into operation in Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC — the first and currently the only one in the republic. It allowed to reduce the repair time and the amount of costs for putting railway tanks in order not only TAIF Group, but also for other enterprises of Tatarstan.

Meanwhile, on the implementation of the road programmes, they begun to allocated more funds for Zakamye from the regional budget. In 2014, Nizhnekamsk alone implemented 350 million rubles. TAIF-NK allocated another 140 million rubles for the reconstruction and improvement of the 18-kilometre section of the road from Kotlovka to TAIF-NK's HRCC.

In 2014, the budget allocated for road repairs in Nizhnekamsk exceeded 350 million rubles for the first time. Photo: Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC

In 2015, at the 3rd International Chemical Forum in Moscow, the management of Nizhnekamskneftekhim raised the most important issue of combining the efforts of petrochemical industries not even in Zakamye or Tatarstan but in the entire Volga cluster of Russia to solve the problem of high-quality and uninterrupted supply of raw materials to production facilities. The idea of building the Yamal-Volga Region product pipeline was announced, which fully meets the requirements of the Russian Oil and Gas Chemistry Development Strategy for the period up to 2030. The presence of a product pipeline would significantly relieve the load on railways and highways and increase the efficiency of production facilities. However, the proposal has not yet received a clear response from other industry participants.

Within the same forum, the Nizhnekamskneftekhim management noted that each project implemented by TAIF Group and other major participants in the economy of Tatarstan ultimately leads not only to an increase in the volume and expansion of the product line and an increase in tax deductions but also is a powerful incentive for infrastructure changes, without which the increase in production volumes and expansion of the product line lose sense: that's only a half of it to build enterprises and install powerful equipment. It is necessary to provide production with raw materials, as well as create conditions for the shipment of commercial products to consumers, which is almost impossible with existing transport problems. Thus, only the implementation of the project for the construction of the ethylene complex of Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC promises to double the volume of products produced by TANECO. TANECO builds its plans to increase capacity, and the number of residents of Alabuga SEZ is growing.

The year 2016 is an anniversary year for celebrating the half-century anniversary of Nizhnekamsk. The amount of funds for the repair and construction of roads in the district almost doubled. Five hundred and eighty million rubles were allocated from the republican budget for the repair of Nizhnekamsk and rural roads, and 38 million rubles were allocated from the local budget.

In 2016, Nizhnekamskneftekhim allocated 120 million rubles for the repair of three sections of roads connecting the city and the industrial zone of Nizhnekamsk. Photo: Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC

In addition to these amounts, Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC, confirming its city-forming role, with the approval of shareholders and management of TAIF Group, allocated 160 million rubles in 2016 for the improvement of the embankment and the repair of urban intra-block roads, and another 123 million rubles for the repair of three sections of the main roads connecting the city and the industrial zone of Nizhnekamsk and serving, in addition to Nizhnekamskneftekhim, other large industrial enterprises.

The new concept of Zakamye development

In the same year 2016 in Moscow, at Gaidar Forum, one of the most discussed topics was the programme for the development of the Kama agglomeration Innokam, estimated at 750 billion rubles. In particular, they discussed the comprehensive development of the territory's transport infrastructure. It found the support of a number of federal ministries: ministry of energy, ministry of finance, and ministry of transport (and in June 2016, the concept was approved by the government of Russia).

In 2016, at Gaidar Forum in Moscow, one of the bright topics for discussion was the programme for the development of the Kama agglomeration Innokam. Photo: Alexander Yerashov (prav.tatar.ru)

“Innokam has a good geographical location in terms of market access and human capital. But the limitations in development are weak infrastructure and unattractive living conditions — six of the seven single-industry towns in Tatarstan are located in the Kama agglomeration. The traffic congestion of roads and railways has exceeded 200%, and if we leave everything as it is, we will have to look for solutions for the supply of resources (meaning raw materials)," Pavel Kadochnikov, one of the authors of the concept, vice-rector of the Russian Foreign Trade Academy, said at the time. The implementation of planned industrial and social projects, according to the most conservative estimates, promises to increase traffic flows three times. The existing transport system will not be able to cope with such a load.

“These problems are not solved within the framework of the republic's strategy. Moreover, they are not solved within individual agglomerations. To do this, we need a federal document that would allow us to focus all the opportunities for infrastructure transformation," Kadochnikov added.

Repair of the federal highway M7 'Volga'. Photo: rosavtodor.ru

The four main infrastructure projects that are vital for the agglomeration and where state participation is necessary are the new tracing of the federal highway M7 (at that time, its reconstruction was already underway) and the expansion of the capabilities of the railway tracks of the Kama junction. Besides, the territory needs a bridge over the Kama River near the village of Sokolka with separation from the M7 highway near Mamadysh and bypassing Nizhnekamsk and Naberezhnye Chelny, which will allow unloading the only today and more than twice overloaded crossing over the Nizhnekamsk hydroelectric dam and start the main transit flows, bypassing city streets. It is also necessary to build the Yamal-Volga Region product pipeline for the transportation of NGLs (natural gas liquids), which are currently delivered by rail and road transport.

In August 2018, the Russian government signed an order approving changes to the territorial planning scheme for federal transport and federal highways. In particular, the document also agrees on points directly related to Zakamye. The high-speed (120 km/h) four-lane road will branch off from the main highway in the Mamadysh area and, passing through the Mamadysh, Nizhnekamsk, Tukay and Zainsk districts, passing the new bridge near the settlement of Sokolka, which is also to be built, will again join the federal highway in 90 km, bypassing Nizhnekamsk and Naberezhnye Chelny.

According to the new concept, it is planned to build a new high-speed highway with a length of about 90 km with a bridge in Zakamye. Photo: avtospravochnaya.com

This highway will significantly facilitate cargo logistics, which is especially important, given the pace of development of the cluster's enterprises and Alabuga SEZ. Besides, it will significantly reduce the load on the existing transport infrastructure, including the Nizhnekamsk hydroelectric dam, which is still the only road crossing over the Kama River in the cluster, the transport load on it has long been several times higher than the estimated permissible one. In addition, it is to be closed for repairs in the coming years.

In the autumn of 2018, the design and survey works began under the project. Lenar Safin, then the minister of transport and roads of the Republic of Tatarstan, expressed hope that in 2019 it would be possible to complete the design (the competition was announced in April 2019), and in 2020 — to decide on funding and start construction. A little later, the plans were adjusted, and the deadline for completing the design work was pushed back to the end of August 2021. At the same time, the deadline for completion of the construction itself remained the same: the Federal Road Agency plans to launch traffic on the highway until 2024.

In 2019, the Nizhnekamsk district implemented a record 1,7 billion rubles on road repairs and construction. Photo: Oleg Spiridonov

In 2019, another record was broken in Nizhnekamsk: record 1,7 billion rubles were spent on road construction and repair from the republican and local budgets. In particular, the next major repair of the Sobolekovskaya highway was completed. Taking into account that one of the main items of income of the consolidated budget of Tatarstan is income tax, and the share of TAIF in the total amount of this tax in the Republic of Tatarstan at the end of 2019 was 8%, we can safely say that TAIF Group also contributes to the construction of the highway.

In total, 133 km of federal roads have been put in order in the republic. The main part is M7 highway, the one that is the main road artery of Innokam.

As Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nizhnekamskneftekhim, Director General of TAIF JSC Ruslan Shigabutdinov noted, summing up the results of work in 2019: not counting taxes, Nizhnekamskneftekhim alone has invested more than half a billion rubles in the development of Nizhnekamsk, including in the construction and repair of roads, and only over the past 5 years. TAIF has provided support to Nizhnekamsk throughout its existence. The group of companies makes no distinction between the concerns and problems of the petrochemical capital, Zakamye and the republic as a whole and its own.

The director general of TAIF JSC raised the question about necessity of support of development of transport-logistic system of Tatarstan during his visit to the republic of the deputy prime minister of Russia. Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov

In March 2020, during a visit to Tatarstan, Deputy Chairman of the government of the Russian Federation Yury Borisov, the director general of TAIF JSC again raised the question of the need for support at the federal level of the development in Tatarstan and Zakamye region, in particular, of the transport system — road, rail, pipeline, everything that determines the success of the procurement and sales activities, logistics, immigration and communication flows, extremely important for the development of industry of the republic, as well as the most important sectors for the economy and defence capability of the country as a whole.

In particular, TAIF Group emphasises that for the successful development of Zakamye, it is already necessary to solve the issue of building a doubletrack railway on the Biklyan-Zeleny Dol-Sviyazhsk segment, with a bridge crossing over the Kama River and Volga River, as well as an additional railway track on the Agryz-Krugloe Pole-Biklyan-Bugulma segment. Also, to ensure efficient road logistics, it is necessary to expand up to six lanes and build new main roads connecting oil and gas processing plants with the western and southern borders of Russia and through Kazakhstan — with China. To ensure reliable supply of the Volga Region's petrochemical industries, it is necessary to consider the possibility of building a product pipeline for transporting liquefied gases (including NGLs) from gas processing plants in the North, Siberia, Orenburg and Kazakhstan with branches to consumers.

The scale of projects, without which the further development of the industry of the Zakamsky agglomeration is seriously hindered, is so large that it is impossible to implement them by the efforts of industrialists alone, without the support and participation of the state.

By Arseny Favstritsky
Tatarstan